Profiles of Experts’ Cognitive and Metacognitive Processing during Performance of a Novel Problem-Solving Task
Daniel L. Dinsmore 1, Brian P. Zoellner 1, Claire Grange Johansen 1,
and Patricia A. Alexander 2
Although much is known about the instructional outcomes related to science simulations, less is known about the cognitive and metacognitive processes individuals employ during these simulations, and how this processing relates to important science learning outcomes, such as scientific explanations of phenomena. In this study, we sought to develop profiles of experts’ problem solving during a physical simulation task that was outside their scientific discipline. The simulation involved working with a box with an unknown internal mechanism that varied water output in relation to water input. Eleven experts in four scientific disciplines (i.e., psychology, biology, chemistry, and physics) from a large public university in the southeastern United States engaged in a novel simulation of a scientific phenomenon. They worked with the simulation for 30 minutes, thinking aloud while they did so, and, following the experience with the simulation, developed a scientific explanation for the phenomenon they observed. The think- alouds and explanations were coded to reveal both the processing profiles and the scientific explanations associated with those profiles. These data indicated that many aspects of the experts’ processing profiles were similar (e.g., their use of observation as a high-frequency strategy). However, important differences in processing were identified that appeared to influence the precision and openness of the resulting explanations. Suggestions for future research, such as comparing these profiles to non-experts, and suggestions for classroom practice, such as modeling multiple patterns of strategy use during science tasks are discussed.